An estimated 40% of American adults have chronic venous insufficiency. That means you have a good chance of developing venous disease, yet you may not have symptoms alerting you to the problem.
The best way to protect your health is by learning the risk factors. If you discover you have a high risk, you can take steps to avoid or treat venous disease.
Kishore K. Arcot, MD, at Memphis Vein Center has helped many people prevent serious complications by screening for venous disease, finding it at an early stage, and restoring healthy veins using today's most advanced treatments.
Here's what you need to know about venous disease and its risk factors.
Types of venous disease
Venous disease includes a group of conditions caused by damaged or diseased veins. The most common include:
Chronic venous insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency develops when one-way valves in your leg veins stop working. These valves keep blood moving up your leg on its way back toward your heart.
If a valve weakens, the blood goes in the wrong direction, refluxes down your leg, and accumulates in the vein. As a result, all the blood doesn't return to your heart, causing venous insufficiency.
Without treatment, this condition raises the pressure in your leg veins. The extra pressure leads to problems like:
- An eczema-like rash
- Reddish-brown skin discoloration
- Leathery, thickened skin
- Nonhealing leg wounds
The leg wounds, called venous stasis ulcers, don't heal on their own. Without intensive treatment, the wound expands and leads to serious infections.
The accumulating blood from venous insufficiency stretches the vein and weakens other valves. As a result, blood collects in more vein segments. This leads to a network of enlarged, bulging, twisted, and dark-blue varicose veins.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
A thrombosis (blood clot) develops when your blood flow slows down, often due to a vein injury, inflammation, or chronic venous insufficiency. If a clot develops in the veins running through your leg muscles, you have deep vein thrombosis.
Serious problems occur when the clot breaks free, gets trapped in your lungs, and causes a pulmonary embolism. This is a medical emergency because it quickly raises the pressure in your heart.
Risk factors for venous disease
Vein problems may cause symptoms like varicose veins, open ulcers, and leg swelling. But you can have active venous disease without any obvious symptoms. The only way to know if you should seek early vein screening is by learning about your risk factors.
The top risk factors include:
Being older than 50
Like the muscles throughout your body, the muscles in your valves and vein walls weaken as you get older. As a result, your risk increases along with your age.
Women have a high chance of developing venous disease because higher levels of estrogen and progesterone have a relaxing effect on veins. This change, which is most dramatic during pregnancy, allows the veins to enlarge and stretch the valves.
Having a personal or family history
Two of the top risk factors are having a family history of chronic venous insufficiency or a personal history of DVT.
Sitting or standing for a prolonged period
In addition to the one-way valves, the muscles in your legs are important for venous blood flow. When you move, the muscles contract and push blood up the vein.
Inactivity leads to venous disease, whether it's due to prolonged sitting or standing, lack of exercise, or bed rest. Sitting and standing especially increase the risk because they also put excessive pressure on your leg veins.
Being overweight or obese
Carrying extra weight also increases the pressure in your leg veins, weakening valves and stretching vein walls.
Having other DVT risk factors
The factors listed above increase your risk for DVT. But you're also more likely to get DVT if you suffer a vein injury or have a health condition such as inflammatory bowel disease, heart failure, or cancer.
To learn more about your risk for venous disease, call us at Memphis Vein Center in Memphis, Tennessee, or book an appointment online today.